People vs Bartolome (GR No 191726 February 06, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs Bartolome
GR No 191726 February 06, 2013

Facts:  On August 10, 2003, at around 1:00 a.m., an informant went to the Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Unit (ADSOU) in Caloocan City to report the illicit drug dealings of the accused on Reparo Street, Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City. Acting on the report, Police Inspector Cesar Cruz of ADSOU immediately instructed some of his men to conduct a buy-bust operation against the accused. During the pre-operation briefing, the buy-bust team designated PO1 Borban Paras as the poseur-buyer. Paras was given a P100.00 bill that he marked with his initials BP. It was agreed that the informant would drop a cigarette butt in front of the suspect to identify him to Paras; and that Paras would scratch his head to signal to the buy-bust team that the transaction with the suspect had been consummated. The operation was coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. Upon arriving at the target area at around 2:00 a.m. of August 10, 2003, the team members positioned themselves in the vicinity of a store. The informant then approached a person who was standing in front of the store and dropped a cigarette butt in front of the person. Paras, then only two meters away from the informant, saw the dropping of the cigarette butt. Paras went towards the suspect and said to him: Pre pa-iskor nga. The suspect responded: Pre, piso na lang tong hawak magkano ba kukunin mo? Paras replied: Ayos na yan, piso lang naman talaga ang kukunin ko, after which he handed the marked P100.00 bill to the suspect, who in turn drew out a plastic sachet containing white substances from his pocket and gave the sachet to Paras. With that, Paras scratched his head to signal the consummation of the sale. As the other members of the team were approaching, Paras grabbed the suspect. PO3 Rodrigo Antonio, another member of the team, confiscated the marked P100.00 bill from the suspect, who was identified as Noel Bartolome y Bajo. Paras immediately marked the sachet at the crime scene with Bartolomes initials NBB. Insp. Cruz later requested in writing the PNP Crime Laboratory in Caloocan City to conduct a laboratory examination of the contents of the plastic sachet seized from Bartolome. PO2 Rolando De Ocampo, another member of the buy-bust team, brought the request and the sachet and its contents to the laboratory. In due course, Forensic Chemical Officer Jesse Abadilla Dela Rosa of the PNP Crime Laboratory confirmed in Physical Science Report No. D-1038-03 that the plastic sachet contained 0.06 gram of methamphetamine hydrocholoride or shabu, a dangerous drug.

Issue: Whether the transaction resulting to the arrest of Bartolome is an instigation.

Held: No. Instigation is the means by which the accused is lured into the commission of the offense charged in order to prosecute him. On the other hand, entrapment is the employment of such ways and means for the purpose of trapping or capturing a lawbreaker. Thus, in instigation, officers of the law or their agents incite, induce, instigate or lure an accused into committing an offense which he or she would otherwise not commit and has no intention of committing. But in entrapment, the criminal intent or design to commit the offense charged originates in the mind of the accused, and law enforcement officials merely facilitate the apprehension of the criminal by employing ruses and schemes; thus, the accused cannot justify his or her conduct. In instigation, where law enforcers act as coprincipals, the accused will have to be acquitted. But entrapment cannot bar prosecution and conviction. As has been said, instigation is a “trap for the unwary innocent,” while entrapment is a “trap for the unwary criminal.

As a general rule, a buy-bust operation, considered as a form of entrapment, is a valid means of arresting violators of Republic Act No. 9165. It is an effective way of apprehending law offenders in the act of committing a crime. In a buy-bust operation, the idea to commit a crime originates from the offender, without anybody inducing or prodding him to commit the offense.

A police officers act of soliciting drugs from the accused during a buy-bust operation, or what is known as a “decoy solicitation,” is not prohibited by law and does not render invalid the buy-bust operations. The sale of contraband is a kind of offense habitually committed, and the solicitation simply furnishes evidence of the criminals course of conduct. In People v. Sta. Maria, the Court clarified that a “decoy solicitation” is not tantamount to inducement or instigation.

In recent years, it has become common practice for law enforcement officers and agents to engage in buy-bust operations and other entrapment procedures in apprehending drug offenders, which is made difficult by the secrecy with which drug-related offenses are conducted and the many devices and subterfuges employed by offenders to avoid detection. On the other hand, the Court has taken judicial notice of the ugly reality that in cases involving illegal drugs, corrupt law enforcers have been known to prey upon weak, hapless and innocent persons. The distinction between entrapment and instigation has proven to be crucial. The balance needs to be struck between the individual rights and the presumption of innocence on one hand, and ensuring the arrest of those engaged in the illegal traffic of narcotics on the other.

Applying the foregoing, we declare that the accused was not arrested following an instigation for him to commit the crime. Instead, he was caught in flagrante delicto during an entrapment through buy-bust. In a buy-bust operation, the pusher sells the contraband to another posing as a buyer; once the transaction is consummated, the pusher is validly arrested because he is committing or has just committed a crime in the presence of the buyer. Here, Paras asked the accused if he could buy shabu, and the latter, in turn, quickly transacted with the former, receiving the marked bill from Paras and turning over the sachet of shabu he took from his pocket. The accused was shown to have been ready to sell the shabu without much prodding from Paras. There is no question that the idea to commit the crime originated from the mind of the accused.

Prior surveillance is not necessary to render a buy-bust operation legitimate, especially when the buy-bust team is accompanied to the target area by the informant.

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